LINCOLN, Neb.--Transcrypt International plans to introduce in the first quarter 2005 its first Dark Star offering, a digital scrambler for Motorola Pro Series Radios.

The company introduced Dark Star at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials conference in Montreal in August. The scrambler, which resides in the portable handset, enables digital encryption for analog radios. A huge market exists for such a product, according to Jenny Christensen, the company’s marketing director.

“We’ve all heard that digital is the future, but the shift to digital won’t happen over night,” Christensen said. “There are tens of thousands of analog radios out there.”

Christensen predicted the company’s window of opportunity for Dark Star wouldn’t be short-term. “There’s still a lot of doubt regarding P25 (the APCO-backed standard developed to guide the migration from analog to digital). There’s a lot of fragmentation concerning the [various protocols] and there’s a money shortage. Many public-safety agencies won’t be able to rip up infrastructure. The money’s not going to be there for a while. It’s going to take time.”

One aspect of the Dark Star scrambler—which uses a 128-bit encryption key—that could help public safety in this regard is that it is backward compatible with Transcrypt’s 460 scrambler. For example, a law enforcement agency that isn’t in a position to transition all of its radios to digital could migrate a lesser number for a specialized or elite unit. Members of that unit then could communicate with each other on the higher security level, but also communicate with all other member of the agency on the lower security level.

Dark Star also eliminates audio cutoff when the radio is keyed and allows late entry and reentry into encrypted conversations, Christensen said.